Friday, June 17, 2011
Monarchist Destinations: The Pantheon
The Pantheon was built between 118 and 126 AD and was one of the most magnificent of the many buildings constructed by Emperor Hadrian and one the great emperor was quite fond of as he often held court there. The central dome that dominates the structure is still the largest free standing concrete dome in the world, even 2,000 years after it was built. In 609 AD Emperor Phocas of the East Roman Empire legally ceded the building to the ownership of Pope Boniface IV who consecrated it as a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. The Pope had requested that the Byzantine Emperor give the building to the Church so that this sacred place where once the pagan gods were worshipped could be transformed into a house for the worship of the Christian God. This was extremely significant as the rededication of the building as a church is probably the only thing that saved it from going the way of so many other Roman monuments that were destroyed in various invasions (most people don’t know that a great many of the relics of ancient Rome were not ruined in ancient times but in the dark ages or even the Renaissance period).
Given this new purpose for the Pantheon, it is remarkable just how little was changed after it became a Catholic church. Some of the things that were changed were later restored with probably the biggest difference being the removal of all the pagan statuary which would, of course, have been rather inappropriate (to say the least) for a Christian place of worship. However, it is still, to a very large extent, in much the same condition as it was when Emperor Hadrian built it. No doubt because of the connection with the glorious days of ancient Rome, the Pantheon eventually became famous as a place where the most famous Italians were brought to be buried. When the country was reunited as the Kingdom of Italy the Pantheon was where the ancient and modern Roman Caesars came face to face.